SAN JOSE -- Tomas Hertl had to alter his All-Star break agenda when the Sharks informed him after the Kings game last Wednesday that he’d be headed to Worcester.
The 21-year-old was planning on visiting Southern California for four days with his girlfriend, but instead boarded a six-hour cross-country flight (complete with a five-hour delay) with teammate Barclay Goodrow, to play a pair of games for the Sharks’ AHL affiliate.
“I told her we’d go after the season, and instead of four days maybe all week. She’s fine,” Hertl joked.
Hertl considered the experience a good one, as he tries to improve on his faceoffs and overall offensive output in the second half of the season. After exploding onto the scene in 2013, scoring 15 goals in his first 32 games, Hertl has 8 goals and 9 assists in 48 games this season.
In four of five games before the break, Hertl played center for the first time in his brief career. That’s where he skated in Worcester, between Goodrow and John McCarthy, notching a pair of assists.
He indicated that he’s started to feel better in recent weeks, seemingly coinciding with his position change.
“Before All-Star break, I had five games I think I played much better -- my legs moving,” he said. “It’s time for me, because we need wins now.”
It sounds like Hertl will go back to the wing for upcoming games against powerful Anaheim and Chicago, two of the better NHL teams in terms of center depth. After that, the Sharks’ schedule gets a bit easier with two games against Calgary and one each against Edmonton, Vancouver and Carolina.
The long-term plan is to make Hertl a center, permanently.
“Based on our injuries now and the way we move people around, he’ll play the wing for a couple games again,” Todd McLellan said. “He has to be prepared to play all over.
“I think in the long run, doing some forward thinking, with his size and skill set I do believe he’s going to play in the middle.”
Hertl, Goodrow and Mirco Mueller all returned to the Sharks on Tuesday, as the team resumed practice for the first time after the break. Goodrow was scoreless in two games with Worcester, while Mueller, on a conditioning assignment for an injured left wrist, had one goal in three games. The rookie defenseman is expected to be an option for Thursday, having not played an NHL game since Dec. 11.
In one of the games in Worcester involving the three Sharks players, there was a little extra-curricular activity before it even started.
“Second game in warmups, almost everybody fought in the middle,” Hertl said. “That’s something I have never seen before.”
Goodrow said: “It was a lot more talking than actual fighting, but it was a fun experience. … There was kind of a dirty hit the game before, and we had back-to-backs with Albany. One of the guys on Worcester just told the guy he really didn’t like what he saw, and things escalated a little bit from there.”
McLellan got positive reviews of the trio from the Worcester brass.
“They competed extremely hard,” McLellan said. “Battled like they were with the team and they wanted to win. I was told the last game was like a playoff-type atmosphere where it was very intense, and they were key people. That’s what you look for.”